Better Yourself by Asking Questions

questionNo matter who you are, or what you do, there will always be something that you are not an expert in. As businesspeople, we are always working on honing our craft, profession, and interpersonal skills. Part of this never ending journey to better ourselves is asking questions to those who may be able to help us along the way.

Last week in the BNI Podcast, I started a new segment called “Ask Ivan.” Simply by emailing in, listeners of my podcast will be able to submit any question they would like to hear me answer. Shortly after launching the new segment, it occurred to me that podcast listeners aren’t the only ones who may have interesting questions. Readers on IvanMisner.com are just as likely to have burning educational questions.

Whether you have a specific question about referral marketing, would like me to discuss a segment from one of my books, or are curious about anything networking related, your question could be featured in a future blog or vlog.

As networking evolves, the questions on the minds of businesspeople around the world evolve, too.  That being said, be sure to send in your questions to askivan@bni.com and include your city and country. There is no such thing as a stupid question!

Use Your Networks to Build Your Business

It's not net-sitBusiness owners are always looking for new ways to expand their client base and grow their business. Many, as they work to bring their business to the next level, join networking organizations. These organizations can be great ways to meet new people, expand your pool of referral partners, and hone key skills like public speaking and delivery. The key to being a part of these organizations, however, is really working the networks that you are a part of. Remember, “It’s not called ‘NET-SIT’ or ‘NET-EAT” – it’s called ‘NET-WORK.’”

When looking for organizations to join, also remember that it can be beneficial to even join organizations from three or more of the categories of networking groups. Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket, as one group likely won’t meet all of your networking needs. There are seven key types of networking business organizations. These are:

  1. Casual Contact Networks
  2. Strong Contact Networks
  3. Community Service Clubs
  4. Professional Associations
  5. Social/Business Groups
  6. Women’s and Ethnic Organizations
  7. Online/Social Networking

Join as many or as few as your time allows, but always give your best effort to promoting yourself and your business in each. Which groups you select will directly affect your referral marketing’s success.

To pick the groups that are right for you, first take some time and think about what types of organizations you truly want or need to join. Your participation in the group is what will make you successful, not how many you join, so be sure to join the ones that you have time for and want to take part in. Second, you must find some of these organizations in your area. You can try to join an organization across the world from you, but if you can’t physically commit yourself to the group then you won’t get return on your investment.

Next, be sure to visit as many of these groups as you can and get testimonials from current members. Just as you want referrals for your business, you would want current members to give referrals for their organization. Finally, visit the group one more time before you decide to join. Many groups have nuances that you may not pick up on at your first meeting, so give yourself plenty of time to see the whole group.

There is no quick fix, and growing your business will take effort. Above all else, dedicate the time to your networking strategy that it deserves, and meet other qualified business professionals regularly to develop your referral-based business.

How many networking organizations are you a part of? Have you found a combination of groups that gives you the most bang for your buck? I’d love to hear your thoughts on networking organizations, so please leave your comment in the forum below! Thanks!

The Greatest Referral of My Life

If you’re familiar with BNI, the business networking organization I founded back in the mid ’80s, you may be aware that this year is BNI’s 30th anniversary and we’re honoring it with a celebratory video series.  Today, I’d like to share with you one of the videos from the series which is especially important to me because, in it, I talk about the greatest referral of my lifetime.

Throughout my thirty year career in networking, I’ve been privileged to receive more than a few remarkably noteworthy referrals–and I’ve seen and heard of some truly amazing referrals being passed to others.  However, nothing–and I mean nothing–has come close to being as remarkably noteworthy as this one referral which has changed my life in countless ways for the better and continues to define the center of my life.

After watching the video, I’d love to hear from you about what the greatest referral in your life has been up to this point.  I’m sure you have some amazing stories and I hope you’ll share them in the comment forum below–thanks in advance for your participation!

 

 

‘Full-Calorie’ Networking vs. ‘Networking Light’

A while back, I published a blog about networking and, in it, I mentioned that the networking organization I founded, BNI®, is structured around weekly networking meetings.  In response to that blog post, a gentleman wrote to me saying how much he loved the idea of networking meetings and everything about the concept of networking for business appealed to him, but that he just absolutely didn’t want to have to commit to going to a meeting every week.  He proposed that a once-a-month BNI meeting would be much more appealing.

In this video, I detail my response to this gentleman’s proposition of monthly, as opposed to weekly, networking meetings–in other words, his suggestion that networkers should have a ‘Networking Light’ option as opposed to going for the ‘Full-Calorie Networking’ system.

Suffice it to say, opting for ‘Networking Light’ has never done anyone any favors, and my secret to success in business and life (which I share in this video) has a lot to do with never cutting corners or skimping when it comes to my daily recipe for goal achievement.

I’d love to hear your feedback on this video!  What has your experience been in weekly networking groups vs. networking groups that meet much less often?  Please share your thoughts in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

James Barber–“The Networking Guru”

Just last week at the BNI® U.S. National Conference in Savannah, Georgia, I had the opportunity to have a brief chat with James Barber, author of The Networking Guru.  In this video, I ask James to offer a suggestion or two on how networkers can stand out during weekly presentations in their networking group in order to increase their effectiveness at consistently obtaining referrals from their networking partners.

James reveals his top tip for helping your fellow networkers (i.e., your sales team) to focus and really narrow in on how they can refer you, and he tells a powerful story about a North Carolina business woman who used his top tactic and was so successful that he still finds it amazing when he thinks about the results she got.

Watch the video now to learn how you can stand out and be remembered in order to make it easier for those with whom you network to refer you.  I guarantee that if you incorporate James’ advice into your networking presentations and interactions, you will start to see a significant improvment in your referral marketing results and a noticeable increase in the amount of referrals you’re able to generate.

After watching the video, please share your thoughts.  And, if you’ve had previous experience using the tactic we discuss for generating more referrals, I’d love to hear how it worked out for you–please share your story in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

 

Is Networking Worth It If You Work for Someone Else?

Photo courtesy of patpitchaya at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo courtesy of patpitchaya at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Whether you’re self employed or you work for someone else, it is definitely worth your time to start looking for networking groups that can refer you new business.  If you work for someone, take steps to persuade your employer that you will get business by working with these groups.  I’d like to share with you a true story which demonstrates how this can greatly benefit you.

I met a bank manager several years ago who worked hard at persuading his supervisor that participation in a BNI® chapter would yield substantial results for his branch.  The supervisor reluctantly agreed to let him join on a trial basis.  The manager began getting referrals soon after joining.  After several months, another member gave him a particularly good referral–a man who was disgruntled with the level of service at his current bank.  The manager decided to visit the man at his company.  The man told the bank manager that he felt he was not getting personal service from his bank.  The manager assured him that his bank prided itself on service.  He gave the man his personal mobile and home phone numbers and told him that if there were a problem he could be reached any time of day, at home or at work.  The man thanked him for coming to his office and told him he would get back to him.  

Two days later, at 9:00 a.m., the man was standing at the bank door with several savings and checkbooks in hand.  The manager met him at the door and thanked him for coming to the branch.  The man said he was impressed with the way he was handled by the manager and that he had decided to transfer his accounts to the manager’s bank.  To the astonishment of the bank manager, the new customer handed over checking, savings, and money-market accounts totaling over $950,000!  After everything was completed, the man told the manager how glad he was to be referred to him by their mutual friend.

I first heard this story when my office (BNI Headquarters) started getting phone calls from every branch manager in Southern California who worked for that bank.  Each of them wanted information about local chapters of BNI.  When the bank manager who got the $950,000 referral told his supervisor where he got the referral, the supervisor (Remember him?  The reluctant one?) called all his other branch managers and told them to join a local chapter of their own within the next two weeks.

If you work for someone else, the lesson here is to persuade your supervisor.  Not long ago, I spoke to an individual who wanted to join a networking group but was told by his boss that the company wouldn’t pay for it.  This savvy salesman asked his boss, “If I front the money myself and get two referrals that turn into sales within the next thirty days, would the company pay for it then?”  The boss said, “Sure, if you come in with two sales, I’ll see to it that the company pays for the membership.”  Well, guess what?  This salesman, thus highly motivated, closed three sales and was working on four others at the end of the first thirty days.  He told me that his boss “gladly payed for the original membership, and recently paid to renew it.”  Whether you are self-employed or work for someone else, start looking for groups that refer you new business.

Do you have any stories about lucrative referrals you’ve received through joining a networking group?  If so, I’d love to them–please share in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

Are You a ‘Cave Dweller’?

The concept of being a cave dweller stems from the idea that we wake up in the morning in a large cave with a big screen TV, we go out to our garage, get into a little cave with four wheels, we drive to our other big cave with computers, stay there all day, get back into the little cave, drive right back to the large cave, and we don’t get out and connect with people.

In this video, filmed at a recent Referral Institute® Conference, my good friend Mike Macedonio explains the ‘Cave Dweller Reality Check Sheet’ which you can use to make an hourly break down of your day in order to determine whether you’re spending too much time cooped up at home or in the office.  Mike recently filled out the sheet and his results gave him the eye-opening realization that even as a referral marketing expert, he was still falling into the trap of being a cave dweller!

So, watch the video, make your own Cave Dweller Reality Check Sheet, and find out whether or not you’re taking enough time out in the world to meet others, make real connections, and make a conscious effort to grow your business.  I’d love to hear your results so please come back and share them in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

In this video,

Has Your Business Mission Changed?

In this video, I answer the question of how the mission for my own business, BNI® (the world’s largest business networking organization), has changed over the last thirty years.

In every business, there are some things which remain constant and other things which become transformational.  The one thing which has remained constant in my  own business is the philosophy of the organization, Givers Gain®, which is inculcated into the core of the entire company worldwide.  The organization itself, however, has a transformational nature in that we are Changing the Way the World Does Business®.  This is probably the biggest example of how our mission has changed as we started out as a tiny fledgling organization in Southern California not realizing we would eventually become a huge global company.

After watching the video, I’d love to hear your thoughts as well as your ideas on how the mission in your own business has changed.  Please share your thoughts in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

Welcome to International Networking Week® 2015!

This week marks the 9th annual celebration of International Networking Week® which is recognized each year by thousands of people around the world.

International Networking Week is about celebrating the key role that networking plays in the development and success of business around the world.  It is about creating an awareness relating to the process of networking.  Not just any kind of networking, but what I call “relationship networking”–an approach to doing business based on building long-term, successful, genuine relationships with people strategically through the networking process.

International Networking Week has been acknowledged by many governmental organizations (including a joint resolution of the California State Assembly and Senate) and is celebrated in many countries across the globe.  Start the new year out with more business by using this week to build your networking skills and expand the opportunities within your reach.  If you belong to any networking groups, be sure to tell them that this is International Networking Week (Feb 2-6).

Please feel free to share this video with others and show it at your networking meetings this week.

For more information and a list of worldwide events, please visit www.InternationalNetworkingWeek.com.

So what have you already done and/or what will you be doing to recognize International Networking Week?  Please share your plans in the comment forum below–thanks!

 

The Top 7 Things I’ve Learned from 30 Years of Heading the World’s Largest Business Networking Organization

BNI-30-Year-Logo

BNI’s Official 30th Anniversary Commemorative Logo

30 years ago this past Thursday, I put together about 20 people in a small coffee shop in Arcadia, California for the very first meeting of BNI® (Business Network International).  The organization was run from a small bedroom which was converted into an office inside my house in La Verne, California.

The House Where BNI® Began

The House Where BNI® Began

I am humbled by the fact that today the organization has over 7,000 chapters in 60 countries with over 170,000 members world-wide.  In addition, we have over 30 BNI staff at HQ and more than 3,000 BNI Directors and Director Consultants working for the organization!

I don’t believe any of the two dozen or so people who were present at that first meeting fully realized that this was the beginning of something amazing. 

That realization came to me almost a year later between Christmas and New Years as I looked back in amazement at having opened up 20 groups during the year.  At this point I recognized I had struck a chord within the business community.  We don’t teach networking in colleges and universities anywhere in the world, and business people are hungry for referrals. They simply had no viable way to generate them regularly back in 1985.  It was during that week that I sat down and put together the outline for a plan that has evolved into what BNI is today.

I was recently asked by a BNI Director what the secret to this growth was.  I’ve taken some time to write down some of the key factors I think contributed to our success as my answer to his question.  These are factors you won’t find in most business books, and they weren’t taught to me in graduate school.  But I think they were critical to our success in this organization and they may be relevant factors to you, too.

BNI's Current Headquarters Building in Southern California

BNI’s Current Headquarters Building in Southern California

Lessons I Learned in Developing BNI:

  1. Set Goals. I know – everyone says “set goals,” but let me give you a slight variation to this concept.  I recommend you set three levels of goals.  By setting goals in this manner, you give yourself some flexibility in where you want to go over the next year (or years).
    1. High – set a goal that is a stretch. This is one that will be very difficult to reach, but it is definitely possible.
    2. Target – set a goal that you are confident you can reach. It won’t be easy, but it is definitely possible.
    3. Low – set a goal that if everything goes wrong, you are still confident you can reach this.
  2. Reverse engineer your goals. At each level above – where do you want to be at the end of twelve months from now?  That number would be 100% of your annual goal.  Now reverse that.  At nine months you should be at 75% of that goal.  At six months, you should be at 50% of that goal.  At three months, you should be at 25% of that goal.  Check your progress every month.  Stay on track.
  3. Do six things a thousand times, not a thousand things six times! I think one of the big mistakes businesses make is that they jump from one bright shiny object to another. For me, success has come by being like a “dog with a bone!”  I have taken techniques that I’ve seen work, and then I’ve done them over and over and over and over.  Six things, a thousand times.
  4. Create a larger vision. It’s never too early or too late to create a larger vision.  Create something that is a unifying concept for you, your employees, and possibly even your clients – something that resonates with people and creates a long-term vision for the company.  For BNI this began with our philosophy of “Givers Gain.”  It has been inculcated throughout the organization and has been the guiding force of our referral-marketing program.  It led to our vision statement of “Changing the Way the World Does Business” which is all about businesses collaborating and cooperating through our philosophy.
  5. Maintain personal engagement. As a company grows, it becomes increasingly difficult to be personally engaged in every aspect of the business.  That means you must make choices.  However, you must continue to be personally engaged as much as possible.  Technology has enabled me to stay engaged with members and directors (through my visitations, video messages, this newsletter, my blog, the BNI Podcast, our social media, and BNI Connect, to name a few). Nothing replaces personal engagement.  The more you remain engaged, the more your vision can thrive.
  6. Ignorance on fire is better than knowledge on ice. One thing I’ve learned over the last 30 years is that I can teach people “how” to do something (including network).  I can’t teach them to have a good attitude, and I don’t have time to send them back to Mom to get retrained.  The only thing better than “ignorance on fire” is “knowledge on fire.”  If I can take someone who is on fire and teach that person how to succeed, our organization becomes unstoppable.
  7. Do what you love, and you’ll love what you do. As a business person, you are either working in your flame or working in your wax.  When you are in your flame, you are on fire.  You are excited and energized.  When you are working in your wax, you are drained and fatigued.   As a company grows, it is easy to get caught up doing more and more in your wax.  Find out what your flame is, and then do your best to work more in that flame.  Find people whose flame is your wax and put them in the roles you no longer love doing.  This will free you up to work in your flame.

I’d love to hear any thoughts, questions, suggestions, or observations that you might have about the BNI organization whether you’re a member of the organization or not and I’d also really like to hear any key lessons or tips for success which you’ve learned through your own experience in the world of business.  Please share your thoughts, etc. in the comment forum below–thanks!  

 

 

 

 

 

Year End Reflections and Goals for the New Year

For many cultures around the world, today marks the dawning of the new year.  Here in the United States, most people were up at midnight, full of energy, excitedly celebrating the clock striking 12:00 a.m.–the start of 2015 and, more importantly, the chance for people to start fresh and move forward in business and life in bigger and better ways.  So, what was I doing to celebrate the new year? . . . I was giving thanks for the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful view from my lake house in Big Bear, CA  (pictured below) and it moved me to record this video about year-end reflections and new-year goal setting.

The Current View from My House in Big Bear, CA

The Current View from My House in Big Bear, CA

The thing is, the only reason I’m able to sit here enjoying the life I’ve created is that I continue to reflect on the goings on of each passing year and strategically set new goals to accomplish bigger and better things with each coming year. New Year’s Day is the perfect time for all of us to sit down, take stock of the good, the bad, and the ugly from the past year and forge ahead in the new year with a fresh set of goals and a specific plan to achieve those goals.

In this video, I talk about how I go about setting goals each new year and I share the template (shown below) I use for outlining my goals on paper.  I share my main goals for business and life in 2015 and I would really love to hear your goals for the new year as well so please share your goals in the comment forum below.  Thanks and Happy New Year!!

GoalsAndControlsReportTemplate

Promote from Within

In this video, I explain how it can benefit both business owners and employees when business owners promote existing employees from within the company whenever possible as opposed to hiring outside individuals to fill higher positions.

In almost 30 years of running my international networking organization, BNI®, I have largely taken the approach of hiring new employees to fill lower level positions and then promoting them over time to higher and higher positions. To exemplify how this has proven beneficial, I tell the story of an employee I hired over twenty years ago as a receptionist who is now the third highest ranking executive in my company.

I firmly believe that actively looking for opportunities to promote people from within a company not only increases morale within the entire company, it also motivates employees to grow their skills and experience and perform at an increasingly high level.

What is your opinion on promoting from within a company as opposed to hiring from the outside whenever possible?  Do you have a story about an employee or employees you have promoted who have proved to be irreplaceable assets to your business?  I’d love to hear from you so please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

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